The Dallas Mavericks welcomed back Kristaps Porzingis against the New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday night.
After not playing for seven games, he didn’t miss a beat.
In 21 minutes, he scored 19 points while shooting 7-14 from the field. His superstar running mate, Luka Doncic, also returned to the fold after not playing well against the Memphis Grizzlies. And Doncic scored a blistering 33 points, making seven total threes.
With a finally healthy starting five, Dallas throttled the Pelicans 125-107, trimming the Mavericks’ magic number to just one as the team controls its own destiny.
Now the Mavericks didn’t climb up to fifth place in the Western Conference standings because the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Utah Jazz Wednesday night. The Blazers own the tie-breaker over Dallas. However, the Mavs still own the tie-breaker over the Los Angeles Lakers, who currently sit in seventh place. So even if the Lakers won out over the course of its final two games, all Dallas needs to do is claim a victory over either Toronto (27-42) or Minnesota (22-47).
Dallas completely controls its own destiny.
“If you want to win a championship you’ve got to beat everybody, and then you go from there,” Doncic said. “I remember when we were out of the playoffs and now we’re battling for the playoff spot and I’m just happy to be there.”
Another person who was clearly happy was Porzingis, who played as though his right knee wasn’t sore at all. He started the game with a pull-up mid-range jumper that resulted in an and-1.
From that point on, it was smooth sailing for Porzingis, who was just happy to be back.
“I think we’re right where we need to be right before the playoffs… we’ve done the work and now we can just go out there and leave everything out there in the playoffs.”
— Bally Sports Southwest (@BallySportsSW) May 13, 2021
Finally fully healthy:
With Dallas’ magic number at one, the Mavs have a chance to peak at the right time of the season. The 9-14 start to the season was a product of injuries. A mid-season slump was a result of a COVID-19 outbreak and injuries again. But now, for seemingly the first time all season, Dallas has all its weapons at its disposal.
So it’s no coincidence that the Mavericks put together an offensive clinic against the Pelicans the day after losing to Memphis in blowout fashion. It was one of the few games where everyone that came into the season expecting to contribute at a high level was available.
This was who Dallas expected to be back in December. It just took an entire season to get here. And now, with everything on the line, the Mavs have the security of controlling their own destiny.
“Last night we didn’t play well. Tonight we played much better,” Rick Carlisle said. “We’re one step closer. We still have some level of control of our destiny. We obviously need one more to secure at least the sixth position. But there’s still a lot to be determined.”
Wednesday night marked the final back-to-back of the season for Dallas, and that was something everyone was eager for. Now, the focus for Dallas is about closing the regular season out on two wins – not leaving anything up to chance. And after this week, Porzingis, Doncic, and the rest of the Mavericks roster will get another taste at postseason play.
“This is like dessert,” Porzingis said. “This is what you’re waiting for all season, so it’s easy to get your energy going when it’s playoff time. That’s when you want to put everything out there. I’m looking forward to that.”
The playoff race is one of the best time periods on the NBA calander. But it’s even better when your team only has to count on itself to get into the all-exclusive postseason club. Dallas controls its own destiny and fate. And now a lengthy NBA season comes down to just two games. Win and you’re in.
Feature image via Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports.